This blog post is a departure from my normal articles. It’s not about nonprofit management. It’s not about fundraising.
Despite the departure from my normally chosen subjects and my homage to Monty Python in the headline, this post is still about something quite serious that should concern you.
Every April, I devote one posting to how we all can and must act to prevent child sex abuse. Whether or not you have children, there are things you can and should do.
Did you know that one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused by the time they are 18 years old, according to the Centers for Disease Control?
Did you know that the vast majority of these child victims will be sexually abused by someone they know?
If you have children, here are three things you can do to help keep them safe:
1. Don’t rely on “stranger-danger.” Teaching children to avoid strangers or never to talk to a stranger will do little to keep them safe from sexual predators. Child sex abuse is a crime of opportunity. That’s why the vast majority of child sex abuse cases involve someone the child knows (i.e.: a priest, coach, teacher, babysitter, mom’s boyfriend, etc.).
While it is important to teach your children to be cautious with strangers, you should also closely monitor with whom your child has alone-time. You should minimize the number of times your child is alone with only one adult present. I recognize this will be difficult. For example, if you hire a babysitter, that person will have hours alone with your child. But, you can still protect your child by doing a thorough background check and by installing nanny cams in your home.
2. Respect your child’s personal space. Very often, a mom or dad will say something like this to their child: “Go give grandma a hug and kiss.” If the child refuses, the parent or the intended kiss recipient will become increasingly pleading and/or demanding. While perfectly innocent and seemingly harmless, this teaches children a dangerous lesson: Their body is not theirs to control.
Instead, respect your child’s personal boundaries. Let them know it’s okay for them to pick and choose with whom they will have physical contact. Don’t inadvertently send them the message that adults have power over them when it comes to contact. Make sure they understand they can say no to adults.
3. Read these prior posts. I’ve written two other posts about the prevention of child sex abuse: “10 Essential Tips to Protect Children from Real Monsters” and “National Child Abuse Prevention Month: What are You Doing to Help?”
When you read my prior posts, you’ll find more powerful tips as well as the names of organizations you can contact for more information or assistance.
If you do not have children, or even if you do, here are some additional things you can do:
4. Report abuse whenever you see or suspect it. In the case of Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State University football assistant coach, an adult witness testified that he observed Sandusky raping a child in the shower room on campus. Following the University’s stated procedures, he reported the incident to his supervisor.
While it is important to follow an employer’s procedures for reporting wrongdoing, an employer’s rules should not limit our actions. Instead, when you witness or suspect abuse, it is your moral duty to report it to the police. In some jurisdictions, this is even required by law. In addition, if you witness a crime in progress, consider intervening to stop it, provided that you do not risk increased danger to the child or yourself.
5. Advocate for stricter sentences. States and provinces often provide judges with sentencing guidelines or mandatory minimum sentence rules for criminals including child predators. However, all you have to do is watch the television news, read the newspaper, or search the web, and you’ll find countless stories of convicted pedophiles simply getting a mild slap on the wrist before being promptly released from custody.
It’s very difficult to catch pedophiles. Experts estimate that fewer than one in ten cases ever get reported. Of those, prosecutors only bring the strongest cases to court. Juries often don’t want to believe that someone close to a child could do something so heinous. Therefore, juries often find it difficult to convict despite the evidence. When a conviction is finally obtained, the best way to protect children is to keep that person incarcerated for as long as possible.
Pedophiles seldom abuse only one child. I served on a jury in a sex abuse case involving a step-grandfather and his little step-grandson. We convicted. After the trial, the judge informed us that step-granddad was suspected of sexually abusing hundreds of other children throughout his life! As a result of this profound experience, I got involved in the issue. I even served on the Board of the Philadelphia Children’s Alliance.
Once caught and punished, pedophiles are likely to be repeat offenders though they are unlikely to caught again.
I encourage you to urge your elected leaders to adopt stricter sentencing guidelines and/or tougher mandatory minimum sentences. The easiest, surest way to protect children is to deny offenders future access to more children.
6. Talk about it. One of the great accomplishments of Mothers Against Drunk Driving is that the organization got folks talking about a problem that most people simply ignored. Predators live in the shadows of our lives. Child sexual abuse is so common, in part, because society likes to pretend it doesn’t exist, isn’t particularly widespread, or affects only “those” people.
- Child sexual abuse does exist.
- Child sexual abuse is widespread, impacting 25 percent of girls and 17 percent of boys.
- Child sexual abuse does not know any socio-economic, geographic, religious, or racial boundaries. Trust me. We all know someone who was sexually abused or who knows someone who was sexually abused.
It’s okay to talk about this issue in polite company. We need to shine a spotlight on this problem. Here are three easy things you can do right now:
- Share this post on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media.
- Donate a tweet each day to remind folks of the issue of child abuse. I donate a daily tweet along with over 19,000 other people. It’s safe and doesn’t cost you anything. You can learn how to do it here.
- Read and share the article “10 Tips for Protecting the Children You Love from Sexual Abuse” by the Staff of the Philadelphia Children’s Alliance.
Together, if all do our moral duty, we can help protect children everywhere. Will you join me?
That’s what Michael Rosen says… What do you say?